ABOUT 44 per cent of UK businesses polled last week planned to furlough at least half of their workforce over the next seven days, according to British Chambers of Commerce’s first Covid-19 impact tracker published today.

And 32% intended to furlough at least 75% of their employees in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The plans were revealed by businesses days after the UK Government said it would cover 80% of a furloughed employee’s salary up to £2,500 a month.

About 26% of firms polled did not plan to use the Government scheme during the next week, according to the survey conducted between March 25 and 27.

The British Chambers tracker highlights cash-flow pressures for businesses amid the crisis.

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It found 62% of businesses had cash reserves to cover three months or less. Of those surveyed, 18% reported less than one month’s worth of cash in reserve. And 44% had cash reserves to cover between one and three months. Only 6% of respondents said they had more than 12 months’ worth of cash in reserve.

The tracker shows “sharp and significant” falls in domestic and overseas revenues for UK businesses. And it reveals 18% have closed operations temporarily.

Most businesses were aware of key support measures put in place by the Government amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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About 61% of firms knew details of the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. Meanwhile, 59% of businesses were aware of details of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. And 57% were familiar with details of the statutory sick pay refund.

British Chambers director-general Adam Marshall said: “The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on business and economic activity across the UK. While businesses have welcomed the unprecedented size and scope of the government support packages, our findings highlight the urgent need for that support to reach businesses on the ground as soon as possible. The majority of firms cannot wait weeks or months for help to arrive. There’s no escaping the scale of the challenge UK businesses are facing.”

Mr Marshall cited businesses’ contribution to the “national effort” to tackle coronavirus, noting chambers of commerce and their members were gathering unused personal protective equipment from local businesses and delivering it to the NHS.

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